Kettle River

I went out to the Kettle River (the northeast corner of the state) to visit John and his family. They have a nice piece of land that is right on the river, next to a 3 mile dead end road that goes through national forest, and with almost no neighbors. Great dirt road and paved road riding abounds, and when you get back and it is hot and sunny you can jump into the river and go for a float.

We went on two rides. The first was an out and back on a dirt road going up a mountain. We saw 0 vehicles but about 20 cows that wouldn’t get out of our way for a few miles. The second ride was a loop that went a little over 20 miles and we saw 10 cars, despite being on paved roads. It had one climb, lots of rollers, and better scenery than I can find near Seattle. I’m surprised that there aren’t more cyclists heading out this way for vacations.

In the evenings I had fun hanging out with John’s family by the fire and eating some excellent food.  It also helped to see a bit more blue sky than we’ve had on the western side of the state this year.

I enjoyed this view for much of the weekend.

This view is across the river and up some hills from the fire pit

Liza enjoying some time by the river at one of the fishing spots

I took this photo because the sky and landscape looked awesome. When I got back to the house Liza (who was riding behind me) said "Did you get a good photo of that moose?" They thought I had stopped for the Moose, which you can see if you look carefully to the right of the road.

Full moon, river views, good company

'Stine, who used to work at Free Range Cycles, now lives in Eastern WA. She dropped by on Friday and made a very nice paella on the fire.

There seemed to be an endless collection of fire roads to explore

These cows insisted on riding with us for about 5 miles. It was slow and smelly,but they finally found a field to stop at

I brought my new folding kayak and paddled down the river a couple of times

An old farm that we rode past on a ride. We headed into the valley beside it...great riding and no traffic.

wildflowers and a barn

Lake Roosevelt was created by daming the Columbia River. There are some lost towns under it.

This trike is many sizes too large for Maddie,but she handles it better than any of the adults

Summer Camping…finally!

It’s been a pretty cold and wet spring in Seattle this year.  In most years I’ve already spent a week’s worth of nights outside by this time, but this year I’ve barely done any camping.  That is changing now.

On Friday I made a quick getaway (by car) to a nearby National Forest and did some semi-wilderness camping with a few good friends.  This is one of my favorite spots and I hope to be out there again a few more times before the year is done.  It’s really nice having a camping trip that can kick off at the end of work Friday and still be back home by the morning on Saturday.

On Thursday I’m heading east for 4 days of camping and riding with John Speare, hanging out by another great river.  The weekend after that I’m heading for an overnight kayak trip to Blake Island.  Finally, summer feels like it is here.


Scroll past the text if you just want to see photos…

Christine and I spent 6 days in Iceland last week.  Now that I’ve been there I know that 6 days isn’t anywhere close to enough.

Iceland is a beautiful country.  It also has a few major oddities.  The first is the wind, it’s always going and it’s strong.  The second is that there are hardly any trees.  Apparently the original settlers used them up in the first 100 years.  The country once had 25% tree cover, now it is less than 1%.  Finally, since we were there near summer solstice it never seemed to get dark.  Even when I woke up at 2am on our first night I found a beautiful sunset, but it never got darker than twilight.

We spent 2 nights in Reykjavik, 2 nights in Isafjordur, and 1 night near Þingvellir (the Þ is pronounced th) National Park, with a lot of driving (about 700km) in between.  Reykjavik is the largest city in Iceland, but it is still pretty small.  The downtown core/tourist area was easily walkable.  We spent our first day in the city wandering around, and on our second day we took a bus out to the Blue Lagoon.  The Blue Lagoon is a huge thermal pool that uses the waste water from a geothermal power station as it’s water source.  It felt great and was very relaxing.

On our third day we picked up a rental car and started to head north.  We didn’t have an exact plan in mind, but a convenient ferry schedule made up our minds for us.  We arrived just in time to catch the ferry to the West Fjords.  The West Fjords make up the northwest corner of the country and are one of the most remote population areas.  The drive from the ferry north had incredible scenery and was about half gravel roads.  When we arrived in Isafjordur late that evening we made arrangements to go kayaking with North Explorers on a trip called “Hot Pots” that promised some more hot springs relaxation.

The weather and tides weren’t in our favor for the kayaking trip.   We went out with the group and found a lot of chop in the main part of the fjord.  We then tried to get into a more protected area, but couldn’t make it pass the current coming through a narrow bridge (the tide was going out).  Our guide actually capsized there when attempting it.  So we got out of the kayaks, carried them across the road, and paddled on the inside.  The chop was gone there, but there was still a very strong wind.  We went downwind for a little while and enjoyed looking at the seals, there were tons of them including many seal pups.  Turning around and paddling into the wind was very hard going.  About half of the group actually walked back, but Christine and I were among those who braved the wind and paddled back.

The night after our kayak trip we went out to dinner with everyone that we had gone paddling with.  We went to a resturant called “Tarhouse” that only had two things on the menu, fish soup and fish.  The fish that they offered was only what had been caught that day.  We ordered enough of both for everyone at the table and had a great dinner and the best meal that we’d found in Iceland (also served by some very nice people).  It was really good to hang out with some other travelers.

The next morning we started to head south again.  We only had one more night, but didn’t really have a destination in mind.  At about lunch time I decided that we should see if we can make it to Þingvellir National Park, part of a popular tour called the “Golden Circle”.  After another long drive over gravel roads with amazing scenery we came to a very nice hotel called Hotel Hengill that was next to Þingvellir lake.  Christine enjoyed some time in the sauna while I enjoyed watching the view out of our hotel room.

On our last day we went on a short hike near the hotel, then went over to Þingvellir to explore.  Þingvellir is where the concept of the parliment was first created (I had always incorrectly assumed that it was an English invention) and the park has many historical areas related to that.  It also had some incredible scenery and what felt like all of the tourists in Iceland (compared to a US park it was lightly attended, but compared to what we had seen so far it felt very busy).  We found a little used trail to walk on down a ravine, then came back through the historical area.

I didn’t know what to expect when we planned on going to Iceland, but I really enjoyed it.  The scenery is incredible and it was very relaxing being in a place where there are hot springs in almost every city.  I hope we can visit again someday and see more of the country.

Houses in Reykjavik

This is what 2am looks like. Twilight, but not dark.

This Cathedral in Reykjavik is very prominent on the skyline. The texture also reminded me of what a Lego cathedral might look like.

The Perlan sits just outside of downtown and collects hot water from geothermal sources which is then distributed throughout the city for hot water and heating. There were nice views and an ice cream shop at the top of it.

Blue Lagoon

Christine enjoying the hot springs at the Blue Lagoon

A nice view on the Snaefellsnes Peninsula

First view of the West Fjords

Multi-tiered Falls on the West Fjords

Arctic Terns fishing on our kayak trip.

Seals on our kayak trip

Hot Springs that we enjoyed after paddling. Yes, that is a hot tub full of hot springs water the size of a swimming pool.

Cod cheek skillet for 4. They were very tasty.

Driving in the West Fjords involves a lot of going around fjords like this one. It takes about 20 minutes to go around a normal sized one.

Those three mountains might look like they are next to each other, but there are fjords in between each one.

Mountain Hut at the top of the one of the passes

Farm Field

This is my best waterfall photo, and as far as I know these two waterfalls don't even have a name. We parked by the side of the road and hiked back to check them out.

A random good view from the road back to Thingvellir NP

Hiking near Þingvellir Lake. The weather changed every few minutes, from rain to sun and back again.

We enjoyed hiking along this ravine in Þingvellir NP.

A historic church in Þhingvellir NP

All Photos

Velkommen til Nordmarka

I’m in Oslo, Norway for work again and have a couple of days to myself.  My plan today was to rent a mountain bike, but by the time I found the rental place they were closed.  My GPS showed tons of trails in the area though, so I just started walking.

I quickly came to a sign that said “Velkommen til Nordmarka.”  Awesome, that was my backup plan anyway!  Nordmarka just means “north woods” and is a huge forested area in the northern part of Oslo.  This isn’t something small like Central Park in NYC, or Fairmount Park in Philadelphia, the Nordmarka just keeps on going and going and going (click the map and zoom out to see).  The coolest thing is that I got there by taking the T-bane (aka, the subway).

I looked at the map and started hiking towards the closest lake, figuring it might be pretty.  Once I was there I picked out another lake and hiked to there.  By the 3rd lake I figured I had a theme going and mapped out a sequence of lakes that would take me back to a different T-bane station on a different line.  The whole walk was about 18km (a bit over 11 miles) and I barely saw anyone, while hiking inside the city limits!

I’ve often dreamt of living in a city where one could take public transit to wilderness, spend the day or a weekend there (camping is allowed and popular in the Nordmarka) and easily get back home.  The closest thing that I’ve found was Wellington, NZ, but Oslo has it beat.

Sadly I left my camera’s battery in my hotel room, so you just get cell phone pictures.

The Hollemkollen ski jump, where I started my walk.

My first lake stop.

A fairly typical "blue" trail. Blue trails are summer only hiking trails. Red and brown trails are year round and more like tiny gravel roads.

Second lake

This is a ski cabin in the winter, a hiking cabin in the summer. You can stay there for a small fee and with nothing more than a sleep sheet.

The trails were very well signed. Sadly I find it very hard to keep Norwegian names straight in my head, so the signs were often confusing to me. I'm getting better at it though.

Third or Fourth Lake (on the hike), I lost count. The hike finished with three in fairly quick succession. The first of them had another set of cabins at it.

Whenever I thought things were getting a bit quiet there would be a babbling creek to keep me company.

The forest was beautiful and made me want to throw up a hammock and take a nap. Sadly my camping hammock was back in Seattle.

A bit of a view over the trees as I get towards the end of the hike.

This final lake was right next to the T-bane station and seemed to be the local equivalent of Seattle's Green Lake. There were many people out and enjoying the sun.

My route.

mountain bike weekend

Rory and I left work about an hour early on Friday and headed across the mountains for a pair of back to back mountain bike rides.  On Friday night we explored the trails over Roslyn, WA, trying to follow a map that we had for a route called the Rat Pac.  I think we were only half successful in following the route, but we had a great ride on a really nice clear evening.



Nice views

Nice trails

Clear skies, bright moon

"slickrock". I don't think it really was, but the surface was fun to ride on anyway.

"slickrock": photo by Rory

This was probably not the most stable ground to stand on

There are more photos on my smugmug site and Rory’s Picasa site.

We had dinner in Roslyn at “The Brick” (made famous in the TV show Northern Exposure) and stayed at Rory’s parent’s cabin in Cle Elum.  The next morning we got up early and headed a bit farther east to the Taenum Creek area to do a 20 mile loop known as Fishhook Flats.  When Rory sent out the invite he put in this crucial statement: “The route will be fishhook flats, which i’m pretty sure is snow free by now(no guarantees).”  I should have learned from last year’s Mount Catherine ride with Rory that this was a sure sign that we’d have plenty of snow to ride through.

The ride was great, but we did walk 5 or more miles of the route due to snow.   We decided that this upgraded the ride from being sort of long into the epic category.  The riding that we did do was really nice though, without too much crazy steep stuff and with trails that were in pretty good shape.  I’m pretty sure we were the first people on most of the trails this season, there were no signs of other traffic through the snow.  The weather wasn’t as clear as on Friday night and it was a bit cooler, but we didn’t have any rain.

The route starts along this old decaying dirt road.

This was our first snow.

This large open field could make a great home base for a mountain bike camping weekend. There was space for at least 50 tents.

There was a fair amount of blow down this early in the season.

6 inch deep snow like this is the most frustrating, because it seems like it should be ridable, but it isn't.

We tried anyway

Peanut butter and honey in a packet might be my new favorite trail food.

Our second lunch stop location, down below the worst of the snow.

Where there wasn't snow there was plenty of mud. Photo by Rory.

The quantity of snow often had less to do with the elevation, and more to do with the exposure of the ridgeline and the thickness of the tree canopy.

Stream crossing

This last section along the North Fork Trail was snow free and really good riding. I was really tired by this point, so Rory had to wait for me somewhat often. The views of the creek below were nice.

The creek had plenty of bridges, all in good condition.

Lots of mud!

My photos

Rory’s photos

How it’s Made: Frame and Fork Alignment Gauge

First, a quick update on the tools that I listed in my last post.

Frame and Fork Alignment Gauge: Interest has been much higher than I anticipated.  I thought I might sell 10 of these this month, and ordered material for around 20 just so I wouldn’t have to visit Online Metals too frequently.  It turns out that wasn’t enough, and at this moment I’m out of material.  I’ll make another batch in a few weeks.  I’m keeping track of backorders and sending out invoices to buyers as I have the gauges made.  Hahn Rossman (who bought the first one) took a good set of photos of the gauge in his and posted them on his flickr.  I’m likely to raise the price on this by $5 to $10 soon, but that won’t affect any outstanding orders.

Fork Fixture: The prototypes are sold and will be shipped out soon (hopefully this week).  I’m going to scale back the kit to only include the parts that I make or modify or which are hard to source.  I’ll probably sell that kit for $90 (so $100 including shipping).  The buyer will need to source parts (including the 80/20 extrusions) from two more sources for about $60 and a dummy axle from Anvil, making the whole thing around $200.  Selling the fixture this way makes my life easier (less inventory to manage) and keeps prices low, at the cost of a bit more hassle for the buyer.  For the intended market (hobbyist builders) that is the right thing to do.

Now onto the actual subject, how I made the Frame and Fork Alignment Gauge.  These are made on my Taig CNC Micro-Mill and I took some photos while making a few of these today.  My mill is a small “toy” compared to the large scale CNC machining centers used at places like Anvil, but it is a lot more affordable and still allows me to make projects like this.

I designed the part in an inexpensive CAM package called CamBam. I use CamBam to both draw the basic shape, and then to produce "G-Code" which is what tells the mill how to produce the part. There are 3 basic steps in this part: Drill mounting holes, Engrave Text, and Profile (carve) the part.

I made this fixture plate which locates and holds the material as the cutting takes place. It is mounted to the table of the mill.

Raw material (4" wide by 0.25" thick aluminum) is cut from 6' lengths down to 290mm lengths on the bandsaw. These inexpensive bandsaws are sold by many importers. They aren't very accurate, but they work well for this application and save a lot of time compared to cutting stock by hand.

The raw material is placed on the fixture plate and clamped into place. There are 3 aluminum "buttons" at the top and left edges which are used to roughly place the material. It only needs to be accurate to within 2mm, because the whole edge will be trimmed by the mill when the part is profiled.

A 3/16 2-flute "drill-mill" is put into the mill's head. This is used to drill the mounting holes and to engrave the text that is on the surface of the part. It looks like a normal drill bit, but it is designed to cut both in down and side operations (normal drill bits only cut in a down operation). It is made of solid carbide. These bits aren't cheap, they cost about $10-15 each.

The 4 mounting holes have been drilled and it is now engraving the text. The mounting holes are 8.5mm, but can be made with this much smaller bit by moving the work under the bit as the bit is lowered into the work. That blue stuff is coolant which is continuously recycled and pumped through that nozzle to blow chips aluminum chips away and to keep the tool edge cool and well lubricated.

The text is engraved and the holes are drilled. Time to change the clamping and change the toolbit.

Clamping bolts have been inserted into the 4 holes, and the perimeter clamps and locating buttons have been removed. This makes it safe to remove material for the outside edge of the parts.

The toolbit has been swapped out for a 1/8" 2-flute endmill

The control software (EMC2) has been waiting patiently for me to change around the clamps and to swap the toolbit. Time to press continue and let it do the second part of the job. The purple lines show paths that the cutter has recently followed (so all of the engraving) and the white lines show the full path that the cutter will follow.

The left part is being cut into it's final shape. The toolbit spirals around the perimeter to define the shape, removing 1.25mm more material with each pass. It is moving at 30 inches per minute (800mm per minute) and the bit rotates at over 10k rpm.

The left gauge is complete, and the machine is moving over to cut out the right one.

Both gauges are complete. Now it is just time to remove them from the fixture block and to brush off waste bits and swarf (the aluminum "saw dust").

Once they've been cleaned and the coolant has been rinsed off I put them into the pile of widgets that is ready to ship.

This is what the machine looks like while it is in operation. It is pretty well enclosed to keep coolant and swarf from spraying all over the basement. The cart has a footprint of roughly 4' wide by 2' deep. This is a tiny CNC machine compared to what would be used in industry (and is less rigid and has less features, but costs far less too).

The machine runs for about 20 minutes to make two gauges, and I spend a few minutes in the process dealing with clamping down the material and changing cutters.  A larger CNC machine would allow me to make 10 or 20 of these at one time, saving a lot of time on tool changes and allowing me to clamp more material in place then walk away for an hour or more while it gets work done.  It would also be much more rigid, so the cutter could cut the full depth of the material at once instead of making multiple passes.

On the other hand the Taig CNC mills start at about $2000 (including the controller hardware, but not the PC), which is pretty incredible considering what can be done with them.  I’m using projects like this one and the fork fixture to help recover some of the costs from purchasing the mill in the first place.

I also have a long video on Youtube showing the mill in operation when cutting parts for the hinge on the fork fixture.  In that one you can see what the machine looks like in operation and a different style of fixture plate.

Framebuilding Kits

Upfront: The Rough Stuff NW blog that I started with John Speare is finally getting some new posts this week.  If you are looking for Pacific NW ride reports keep an eye out there in addition to this blog.

I’ve been knocking around the idea of selling some basic kits for building framebuilding jigs for a little while now.  My first foray into that is now on the blog (notice the new  “Store” button near the top) and at  I have two items listed so far: a Frame and Fork Alignment Gauge that I make on my tiny CNC mill and a fork fixture kit that is made using a mix of CNC and manual operations.

I have a dilemma with the fork fixture kit.  I’m trying to decide if I should go down the route of offering full kits (as that one is listed) where all parts are included and the item can be assembled in under an hour.  The other option would be to sell only the unique and hard to find parts in the kit, and provide the buyer with a shopping list and sources.  The latter option I could sell for less money (saving the purchaser) because I wouldn’t need to manage so much inventory, ship large boxes, or count out bolts and nuts as I assemble the kits.

If the fork kit were sold with only the unique parts it would include:

  • The axle clamp assembly.  The buyer would have to thread two holes, cut apart some webbing, and do a little cleanup with a file.
  • The piece of 80/20 which has been modified into a V-block.  I do those on the bandsaw and clean them up on my mill, they actually take a fair amount of time each to make.
  • The 4 pivot plates, which are my own design and not available from 80/20.  I’d also include the shoulder bolts that tie them together because I already bought a big box of them.
  • The piece of extrusion that holds the cross bar for supporting the fork legs.  It has a 1/2″ hole drilled into it which must be done a drill press or milling machine to be accurate.
  • The toggle clamp and mounting plate for the steerer clamp.  The toggle clamp that I use isn’t the easiest one to find, so I can save the buyer a lot of hassle by including it.

I could sell that, including shipping in a USPS flat rate box, for $100 (maybe a little less, I’d have to time myself in making one).  The buyer would need to order about $60 worth of items from McMaster Carr and 80/20 to complete the fixture and total assembly would take a bit longer.  In comparison I think I’m going to need to sell the full kit for $250 complete to make it worth my while, so the total savings would be around $100.

In the long term I’d like to offer subassemblies that can be used for building a full frame fixture and publish free plans on how to take those subassemblies and a shopping list from 80/20 to build a well thought out fixture.  The fork fixture is way for me to test the waters.  My overall goal here is to provide kits at an affordable price point to hobbyist and amateur builders (such as myself), pay off some of my expensive machines, and hopefully not spend so much time in the process that I still enjoy doing this work and maintain free time for hanging out with Christine and riding my bike.  We’ll see how all of that goes.

View from an airplane window

I was in Norway for work last week and had this wonderful scenery on my flight home:

I think we were over Greenland.  I normally don’t pay attention to the scenery outside on long international flights, this was a nice surprise.

Kayak Building Class

I spent the last week in Portland taking a kayak building class by Brian Schulz of Cape Falcon Kayaks.  I took a pretty good number of photos during the class, and this very long blog entry (perhaps the longest that I’ve posted) will be a photo essay showing how we built the kayaks.  Jump to the very end if you want to see a photo of my finished kayak.

I took the class with 2 other students, Steve and David.  Brian was also building a kayak during the class for a customer in Portland.  David, Brian, and I were all building F1 kayaks, a design that Brian came up with.  Steve built a Greenland style kayak that Brian copied from historical drawings with some modifications to make it handle well with a larger paddler.

Here is a rough breakdown of how the class broke down:

  • Day 1: Build the top of the frame
  • Day 2: Build the bottom of the frame
  • Day 3: Finish the frame
  • Day 4: Skin the boat
  • Day 5: Apply polyurethane to the skin and make a paddle.
  • Day 6: Finishing touches (deck lines, foot pedals, back band, seat)
  • Day 7: Paddle

Each day was about 8 hours, starting at 8am and finishing around 4pm or 5pm.  The exception was Day 4 which was a 12 hour day, and Day 6 which was only about 3 hours.  We had to wait to Day 7 to paddle to make sure that the polyurethane coating was dry before going on the water.  I know that the class schedule has been tweaked over the years, so every class will be a little different.

Normally he teaches the class with 5 students,but ours was a little small due to a last minute cancellation.

I’m putting a lot of detail here,but it barely scratches the surface of what you learn taking the class.  It is a great class if you enjoy working with your hands, enjoy kayaking, and aren’t normally a wood working type of person.  I learned a lot and think I was far more successful than if I had tried this on my own.

Day 1

This is how we start the day.

We started with the two gunwales.  These were setup before the class and came to us cut to length and with the mortises already complete.  They are made from cedar.


P1000145My boat will be 22" wide

Using some simple jigs and cam-buckle straps we set the basic shape of the kayak.  This is a critical setup and also set the beam (width) of the boat.  We measured carefully at two points for the design.  Brian scaled our boats at this stage to fit our weight and intended use.  A kayak intended for a small woman was narrow, one that would only be used while camping was built a little wider.  My boat was in the middle.

Using a jigsaw to miter the ends of the gunnels

We needed to miter the ends of the gunwales to make them come together.  We did this using a jigsaw and many passes with light tension at the end of the gunwales.

Cut and clamped

This is what the front of the gunwales looked like after mitering.  The same thing was done on the rear.

Tied together with twineP1000171

Our first of many lashings on the boat was used to tie the gunwales together.  They don’t align perfectly, but that doesn’t matter because we’ll be doing more cleanup work in this area later.  The joint was also pinned using two 1/4” diameter dowels.

Marking the inside of each tenon

The next step was to mark and make the tenons on the deck beams.  The deck beams are used to connect the two gunwales and will form the top of the boat.  We used some scrap bamboo to transfer the width of the gunwales onto the deck beams.  The deck beams were mostly made of cedar, but the one right behind the cockpit (which sometimes needs to support the paddlers weight) was heavier and stronger spruce.

Tenon is marked out

This shows a marked tenon, ready to cut.  The pencil marks show what we’ll keep.

A cut tenon

This is a completed tenon and the mortise that it will fit into.  We cut the tenons using a Japanese saw and a chisel.  It took a few tries to get a tight fit.

The top of the kayak is formed, each tenon is in place

Here you can see all 6 of the deck beams on the boat.  The front 3 ones are curved (they were laminated together by Brian before the class) and the three rear ones are flat.  At this point the shape of the boat is set, so we were able to remove the jigs.

There are two pegs holding each deck rail in place.  A 1/8" through the top, and a 1/4" on a diagonal.  This is a strong joint (and no glue).

The tenons were pinned into place with 1/4” dowels at a diagonal, and a small 1/8” dowel through the top.  No glue was necessary.  All of the excess material was cleaned up later.

End of the day: The top is forms, all ribs are cut.  Tomorrow we'll bend them.

As our last job on day 1 we measured and cut the ribs that will form the bottom shape of the boat.  Brian scaled the rib lengths on the F1 kayaks based on the intended boats use.  In particular the small woman’s kayak used much shorter ribs to get reduced volume.

Day 2

Steaming the ribs

We started day 2 by steaming the ribs.  We did this in a steam box that Brian had built, it was fed by a wall paper steamer.  The steam box held 20 ribs, and the ribs needed 20 minutes each of steam to become pliable.  This meant that we worked on a new rib every minute.  Brian used laminated bamboo for the ribs.  He used to use white oak, but says that good quality bending oak is getting very hard to find.  An alternative would be to use ash.

Bending the ribs

Here Brian demonstrates how we work the ribs.  Each rib was pulled from the steam box and backed by a thick leather belt.  The rib had to be worked immediately to make it plastic.

Bending the ribs

The ribs were then placed into the correct mortise on the gunwales.  There could be some extensive bending of ribs to make them meet the desired bend.  Not all of the ribs made it, we had to keep track of the broken ones and make new ones that would fit.


Here Brian is bending one of the last ribs in the boat.  You can really see how the bottom is taking shape.  The front few ribs are almost a V, then they are rounded over, and finally the rear ribs are squared off.

Getting the ribs right was probably one of the hardest parts of building the frame. 


The next job was to tie a keel down to the center line of the ribs.  The keel was lashed in place with artificial sinew.  The knot above is called a box lash.

That number is how you measure the length of the rib.  Lay it across the boat, add 6", then the number

Some of the ribs were also pinned in place with 1/8” dowels.

Marking out the bow stem

The next thing was to cut and install the bow and stern stems.  These define the front and rear of the boat, and many parts of the frame tie into them.  Here I am marking out the cuts that will need to be made.

The bow stem is marked.

We took the marked up stems to the bandsaw and cut them from the template above into the proper shape.

The cut bow stem is tied into the frame

Similar treatment on the stern

The stems were then lashed into the gunwales and the keel strip.

Keel strip, bow, and stern in place

This is what the boat looked like with the front and rear stems and the keel in place.

Stringers lashed into place

After adding the keel we added in two chine strips.  This formed the rest of the bottom of the boat.  It was important that all three of these strips were well aligned to make sure that the boat would track straight.

End of day 2.  It's looking like a boat!

This is what the boat looked like with the top facing up.  It looks like a boat, doesn’t it?

Day 3

The third day was about finishing up all of the frame work.  I thought we were almost done on Day 2, but there were a lot of bits to add on to build the boat’s shape.

Bow stem, morning of day 3

The first thing was to tie the chine stringers into the front and rear stems.  The number of lashings is really adding up!

David carves out a notch for the top railCarving

We had to chisel out a small area for the top deck beam to sit in. 


That is the back of the beam that defines the top edge of the boat.

Installing foot pegs

Before putting that beam in we installed the tracks for the foot pedals.  With 4 screws per pedal track they won’t be going anywhere.

Adding a lamination for extra strength

On my boat and David’s boat we also added an extra lamination to the deck beam that will be right in front of the cockpit.  Brian said that this isn’t necessary, but it gave me a little piece of mind for very little actual weight.

Progress middle of day 3

The bow deck beam was lashed into place.  We also added two stern deck beams that go just behind the cockpit.  They can support your weight when getting into the boat.

End of day 3.  The frame is done and has been oiled

Front, end of day 3

We finished the day by sanding the boat, cleaning up all protrusions, and then oiling the boat. 

Front, end of day 3

The oil that we used (Watco) really made the colors on the wood on my boat pop. 

Day 4

On Day 4 we moved from building the frame to covering it with cloth.  This was the longest day of class, we started at 7am and I don’t think that I got back to my friend’s house until 8 or 8:30pm.

Finishing the stern.  We sewed just about an inch along the top so that we could hook this back over the end of the boat when tensioning

The first job was to cover the boat in nylon, then sew down the stern and 1” along the top of the boat.  That is Brian, our instructor, giving us a hand’s on lesson.  In general he taught by showing us what to do on the boat that he was building, then letting us work on our own boats.  The class all moved together in sync, rather than letting one person get far ahead or behind.

The front is sewn.  We moved the fabric forward about 2 inches on the boat before sewing the front.

The skin was shifted about 3” forward, then we did the same thing on the bow.

The boat is starting to get some form with this tensioning

Then the whole skin was hooked over the rear of the boat, pulling it tight. 

Brian cut the fabric along the centerlines using a hot knife

We clamped on some temporary centerlines and Brian used them as guides to cut the nylon skin.

Dave and Steve sealed the edges of the fabric with a torch.

Steve and David followed behind with a torch and seared the edges, making sure that they didn’t unravel.

We used very heavy black thread to tension the skin.  The fabric was wet during this process (all the way up until we added the coming)

We used heavy black thread to tension the fabric along the front and rear of the boat.  With multiple passes of pulling on the black thread we were able to tension the skin around the frame.

It is starting to tension

You can see how the fabric is tightly pulled against the framework of the boat.

Dave is sewing the bow of his boat

We followed behind and sewed the remaining skin closed with white thread (actually dental floss).  This took a very long time, the seams on our boats are about 12’ long!

We've clamped the comings in place and Brian cut out the excess fabric with the hot knife

We located the coamings on the boat (Brian had made these previously at his workshop) and cut out the remaining fabric with a hot knife.  I don’t have any photos of sewing the coaming, but it was done with the same heavy black thread that was used for tensioning the skin.  We drilled about 50 holes around the edge of the coaming for the thread to go through.

Starting to sew the coming into place.  We used the same heavy black thread and ran it through little holes all the way around

The boat is sewn up!

Two F1's side by side.  The small one on the right is for a 100lb woman, the much larger volume one on the left is for a guy with a lot of camping gear

Here you can see how a small F1 and a large F1 compare.  The basic shape is very similar, but the one on the right has a lot less volume.

My boat, from the inside, fully tensioned

This is the inside of the stern of my boat and shows how the skin fits tightly around the boat’s framework.

Dying the fabric using an acid based dye.  We started at the bottom and worked our way up.

We finished out the day by staining the fabric with a brown dye, working from the bottom to the top.

Day 5

On Day 5 we had to coat the fabric to make it waterproof.  We used a 2-part polyurethane designed for this that is made by Spirit Line and sold by

Mixing up the goop (Spirit Line)

Brian mixed up the poly (aka goop) for us.  I don’t have any photos of the goop application process (my hands were covered in it), but this is what it looked like when we were done:

After coating

The goop was applied with a wide spreader and worked into the cloth in two coats.  We had to keep working it into the fabric and keeping an even application for about 45 minutes per coat.  We did the bottom of the boat first (with the top edged masked off), then turned the boat over and did the top.  The whole process took over 3 hours.

We used the other half of the day to make kayak paddles.  I will post a different (and shorter) photo essay on that process later.

Day 6

Day 6 was our last day in the workshop and was a short day to equip our boat for use.  We added deck lines, installed a back band, foam paddling to sit on, and put the foot pedals on their tracks.  The deck lashings are made of leather and took the most time.

Sadly I forgot to take my camera into class on Day 6, so I just have photos of the final product:




David didn’t stain his boat, so it came out in a translucent white.  It will yellow slightly with age.

Day 7

All that we had to do on day 7 was take the boats out for a quick paddle.My boat and Maxine’s boat next to each other, ready to go.  You can also see the paddle that I made attached to my boat.

Note: Brian provides much nicer looking back bands than the ugly blue and grey one that I used.  I just chose to recycle on that I already had rather than buying a new one.


My boat about ready to go into the water.


Brian showed us some techniques for using the Greenland-style paddle in Steve’s Greenland-style boat.


I really enjoyed the class.  I’ve only had time to take the kayak out for one brief paddle so far, but it handled very well and I love the light weight of the boat.  It is about half the weight of my fiberglass kayak.

If I build another one of these (say for Christine) I know that I could do it on my own time, but I’d be tempted to take the class again.  It was fun working on the project with other builders and Brian’s experience and techniques allowed us to finish the build quickly without taking short cuts.

Full photo set is on my Smugmug Account:

Kayak Progress

It’s the end of day 3 of my class with Cape Falcon Kayak, and we have a completed frame:

Completed Frame

Tomorrow we’ll cover it with the fabric (nylon) skin and dye it.  On Friday it will be covered in a two part polyeurethane, and on Saturday we’ll add rigging and lines and make a paddle.  The only remaining wood work is a cockpit hole, and we worked on that today too.  I think it will be lashed into place tomorrow.

It’s pretty cool, that entire structure is just made of wood and synthetic lashings (there is a little plastic and stainless steel for the foot pegs).  I wonder if skin on frame kayaks were one of human kind’s first space frame structures?

If you click on the image above it takes you to my photo gallery showing progress so far (and a few photos of the Shop People space are sprinkled in there too).

front end